“I was wondering if you have time today, or next weekend to teach me how to drive a stick shift?” I asked my brother.
The Mongol Rally is forcing me to not only tune skills -like problem solving – but it’s forcing me to learn new things, quickly. Things like learning how to drive a manual car, and then driving said manual car in major European cities, over mountains, onto ferries, through deserts, and Lord knows what else!
I was nervous. My overactive imagination took over, and I was dreaming of blowing our car’s transmission in the middle of Kazakhstan, and having some random nomad fix it with string or something – only to have it replaced the next day, when it broke again. I didn’t obsess about it, but the thought was there, for a little bit.
My brother picked me up, and drove us to a large empty parking lot. As I slide into the driver’s seat, I made the mistake of gunning the gas, rather than pressing down the clutch. Thankfully the car was out of gear, and the parking break was on.
Practicing changing gears in the parking lot, freaked me out. At one point I was driving around a pole – too fast- while trying to remember to down shift, use the break, put on the gas, release the clutch, and the drive straight. It was a tad ugly.
“You didn’t need to go that fast. Also, you can make wider turns.” my brother stated, rather calmly.
“Sorry.” I said, a bundle of nerves.
We continued to practice, and soon, I was turning, and downshifting a little better, but I was still nervous. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I was in a parking lot. Speeding up, changing gears, then having to slow down, down gear and turn – before the end of the parking lot – made me nervous.
“You’re getting out. Let’s go out to one of the country roads and practice.”
I was even more nervous, but agreed. We drove to a quiet country road, my brother parked the car, and we switched places. My brother was once again in the passenger seat, and I was behind the wheel, an open road ahead of me, and nobody behind me. I put in the clutch, put the car in gear, and slowly released the clutch, and pressed down on the gas. Then, I stalled it.
Driving down country roads was easier than I thought. Stop Signs were a challenge, and I stalled the car a couple times at a stop sign on a hill, but in the end, all worked out, and I was driving along, chatting with my brother, and shifting gears like I had been doing it my whole life.
Mind you, driving in the country is completely different from driving in town. I was feeling rather of proud as I drove back into town, and to my parents house, until all the stop signs, the stalling, the almost stalling which resulted in jerking, and a slightly jumpy turn or two.
I think I need another practice run, but this time in town. Oh, I also need to practice on a hill again – hills freak me out, especially when they car starts to roll backwards!
Just think, after driving the Mongol Rally in a manual car, I’ll be a pro!! LOL
**Did I really just write a post about learning to drive stickshift?! Wow….